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More funding sought for education

March 06, 1997

By STEVEN T. DENNIS

Staff Writer

An overflow crowd of Washington County Board of Education employees told the Washington County Commissioners Wednesday night that it's time to raise taxes to meet education needs.

During a public meeting at the school board central office, teachers complained that they have received only one cost of living increase in five years, even as their responsibilities have increased.

"We really feel that we've been abandoned," said North Hagerstown High School world history teacher Leon Brumback.

Brumback said his school receives $44,000 a year for textbooks, supplies and equipment.

"There just aren't enough dollars there to stretch to meet ... needs. Ultimately the students suffer," he said.

Washington County Teacher's Association consultant Robert Pellicoro said Board of Education funding increased 16 percent before inflation between fiscal years 1992 and 1996. At the same time, enrollment increased 9.5 percent, he said.

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Non-school board general fund expenses, excluding debt service, increased 44 percent, he said.

A big chunk of that increase was a $2.7 million payment to help reduce the Water and Sewer Department debt, Pellicoro said.

"For the past two years you've chosen to fund sewers over schools," said Pangborn Elementary Principal Joseph Byers.

"We've been asked to do more with less and we've done that," Byers said. "But there is a limit. The road to excellence is crumbling."

Linda Dunn, president of the Washington County Educational Classified Employees Association, said support staff employees have lost 7 percent of their income to inflation in the past five years.

The commissioners said it was too early to say if they will increase taxes.

"I realize what you're going through," said County Commissioner John S. Shank. But Shank said the commissioners must balance spending with the need to reduce the county's debt.

Shank said, to loud applause, that if the commissioners raise property or income taxes, the money should be targeted for education.

County Commissioner James R. Wade said Pellicoro's figures didn't match up with his. Wade said his figures show that funding for the school board has decreased only slightly in the past several years as a percentage of the county budget and has increased in total dollars, while other county departments have been cut.

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